Archive for November, 2010

a few pictures from the weekend

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

The kids:

From our visit to Rothenburg:

The weather:

Our iPad was popular:

turkey in Germany

Monday, November 29th, 2010

We didn’t have Thanksgiving Day off, of course (and what with all the moving and all, we needed to save our remaining vacation days to have a decent amount of time to travel for Christmas) but we decided to drive about 5 hours into Germany to spend the weekend with Ted’s cousins Greg and Kris who are currently living there. Well, we thought it would be about 5 hours; between the snow and road construction on the way there, and an unplanned detour into Stuttgart on the way home it took longer than that.

But aside from a few tense moments in the driving, it was a great trip. We hadn’t seen these cousins for eight years, and their kids now range from 7 to 15, so we were very curious to see how much they’ve changed. The answer is, quite a lot and not much at all. The baby who wasn’t walking yet in Korea now likes a lot of the same books I do; the pre-schooler and kindergartner are gorgeous teen-agers, and the one who wasn’t even conceived yet kept us amused the whole time. The parents are still very comfortable for us to talk to and hang out with. And they’re still remarkably good at being parents – I don’t know if luck as well as good parenting is involved, but all four are some of the nicest kids we know.

I’m a little jealous, though: my Girl Scout troop didn’t get to travel to London or Ireland, or to try cool stuff like paragliding! I’ve had to make up for lost time since then.

I’m not sure if the kids enjoyed the stories from Ted’s and Greg’s childhood, but they definitely liked the chocolate letters we’d brought – it’s a Dutch Sinterklaas tradition, to give out chocolate letters in the initial of your name. The younger two definitely enjoyed playing with our electronics – we’d brought the iPad to show them some of our photos, both from the Africa trip (the youngest started giving all the animals names 🙂 ) and of themselves when little.

We got to have a nice American Thanksgiving dinner, slightly belated, and also got to walk around the old town of Rothenburg, all decked out for the holidays. Rothenburg had its Weihnachtmarkt (Christmas Market) open, with stalls selling glühwein and bratwurst everywhere. There’s also an enormous year-round Christmas store, with a three-story pyramid (those Christmas decorations with the candles whose heat spins a propeller on top – and by three-story I don’t mean that it had three layers but that it’s as tall as a three-story building). And now I have a pretzel Christmas ornament, not to mention some real soft pretzels that we munched on the way home. They don’t have those in the Netherlands, so I make an effort to get some whenever I’m in Germany.

We left Sunday morning (after a waffle breakfast, yum) and immediately proceeded to miss our road, getting disastrously lost in Stuttgart thanks to a combination of maps that didn’t show the area we needed and a GPS that refused to act as a map and kept just telling us to make U-turns. We should have used my iPhone, because it would totally be worth paying the out-of-country roaming fee, but unfortunately we didn’t think of that until afterward. Oops. High-tech electronics only work when you use them. But once we found our way back to the highway, it was an easier drive home, without the falling snow on mountain passes we went through on the way up.

Other than those portions of the drive, it was a fun and relaxing weekend, with a lot of laughter. I’ll try to post a few pictures later. And now, we have only two days until Chanukah and three weeks until our Christmas trip home. And I do really mean “home” – not only to our home country but to our very own house there.

blue laws

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

You’d think a people with the history as great traders would be able to get the hang of being merchants and shoppers, but apparently not.

One feature of Dutch life that has gotten more convenient since we lived here in 2006-7, is that supermarkets are now open on Sundays from 4-8PM. (I have no idea why those seemed like the right hours to choose – shopping for dinner, maybe.) At least, that’s the theory.

In practice, not so much. Last week I wanted a couple of things I knew they carried at the Jan Linders but not at the biggest chain, Albert Heijn. So I walked on over, taking a heavy bag full of glass bottles with me. There’s a closer place to recycle them, but I decided to carry them further, to the supermarket, so I could return them for the deposit. But nope! Apparently Jan Linders does *not* open on Sundays. At least I got to dump off the bottles at the recycle bin, but I was tired from the rowing machine and would have much preferred to skip the whole.trip.

This weekend, I needed a few things, but of course I’d learned my lesson. So this time I headed off to Albert Heijn, sure that it, at least, would be open. Nnnnnnope. There was a sign on the door saying more or less “Sorry, we didn’t feel like opening today. We’ll be here next Sunday, we promise.” (Yes, I am exaggerating. It just said they were closed and would be open next Sunday.)

In a short-term flowering of commerce, all of the stores, not just groceries, will be open next Sunday, as an extra shopping Sunday before Sinterklaasdag (Dec 6, St. Nicholas’s Day, when Dutch children traditionally get presents instead of on Christmas.) We’ll miss that because we’ll be having more fun visiting relatives in Germany but frankly it loses some of the excitement when you’re used to living in places where shopping on Sundays is normal. (Actually, stores in central Amsterdam and Rotterdam are open on Sunday afternoons, but the idea is slow to spread.)

If you’re wondering, most people here are not religious and don’t go to church on Sundays, so it’s not that. On the other hand, lots of people don’t like even the limited Sunday supermarket hours, because you end up going then and it makes the day less relaxing. Personally I find it makes the whole weekend less relaxing when you can only do all your errands on one day, but I suppose it’s all what you’re used to.